A Bernese mountain dog, Dakota, may be the most prolific mother of her breed in the world after giving birth to 15 little black, brown and white puppies on Oct. 10.
“She had two puppies by herself, and then for three hours nothing, so we rushed to Innisfail Vet Clinic and they made an X-ray and they said maybe seven more to come. And then after a C-section there were 15 live puppies. It’s amazing,” said Denise Sidler, who breeds the dogs with husband, Roland, west of Bowden.
The couple have bred the dogs for years, with 11 pups considered a large litter and five to nine offspring considered average. The 15, all healthy and now weighing around four kilograms, shocked Denise and other breeders she has contacted in Canada and Switzerland, where the breed originates.
She said the veterinary staff in Innisfail did an excellent job in birthing the whole litter, as with C-section births it is normal for two or three of the puppies to die in the process.
For the last month, the young pups have been providing the Sidlers with a rousing early morning wake-up call, said Denise.
“They all want to be fed and then it gets really noisy,” she said with a laugh.
In the olden days in Switzerland, the dogs were used to transport milk cans on wagons and were good at rounding up cattle. Nowadays, Denise said they perform well in obedience and show circuits and are a patient dog that provide good companionship for those with disabilities.
While not one of the more common breeds in Canada, the Sidlers have had no trouble selling the puppies at a $1,700 price tag. Buyers have been secured for all but three of the pups, which can formally be sold once they are eight weeks old on Dec. 5.
The Sidlers had the fecund father, Branco vom Zurihorn, imported from their home country of Switzerland nearly two years ago.
Dakota came from Heidiland Kennel, also based in the Bowden area. Denise said because of the C-section birth, the chances of Dakota having a litter next year are 50/50, but the couple has another female who will hopefully be ready to deliver in 2014.
And when that happens, Denise said a smaller set of siblings will suffice.
“(It’s a) one in a million chance to have 15. When we have six, it will be good. As long as they are healthy, then you’re happy. I don’t expect again to have so many. It’s a wonder.”